UF/IFAS Plant Camp Offers Florida Educators a Close Look at Florida Flora and Fauna
by GRACE BOGGESS
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has opened applications for its popular and free 2018 Plant Camp and will be accepted until February 18. The five-day workshop takes place from June 11 to 15, 2018. Plant Camp is designed for any Florida educator interested in learning more about the 130-plus invasive plant species invading Florida, and the native flora and fauna that make the state unique.
Plant Camp is the first event of its kind to provide such intensive in-service training for Florida teachers about aquatic and upland invasive plants. Attendees compete for the limited number of spaces available for this popular professional development opportunity and are selected by a committee of UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP) staff based on evidence of interest and a commitment to sharing what they learn with students and colleagues.
Working with dozens of teachers throughout the state, more than 70 lessons, activities and audio-visual presentations have been produced for upper elementary, middle and high school students. Materials correlate to Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and Common Core State Standards and support learning skill-based science in a real-world context.
Dehlia Albrecht, Education Coordinator for the Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative at the UF/IFAS CAIP, tells us, “The main points we are trying to convey are why invasive plants are a problem, both from an environmental and an economic perspective and why it’s so important to manage them. How we manage them, and what teachers and students can do as citizens are also covered. Prevention is key – for example, you should not dump your aquarium into a storm drain or waterway. But students can also play an active role in removing invasive plants; for example, by participating in or organizing an invasive plant removal project in their neighborhood.”
Albrecht says, “Teachers also get to see native plants in the field and learn first-hand why invasive plants are a problem. Invasive plants can reduce biodiversity, and can have negative impacts on our native plants, as well as animals that are reliant on native plants and habitats. We will talk about all these ecological relationships, and native plants are an important aspect.”
“Plant Camp is a week full of hands-on activities with presenters from UF, state park biologists, experts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Invasive Plant Management Section, and plant managers from the private sector.” explains Albrecht. These presenters will provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at natural resource management issues in the state of Florida, and give teachers the inspiration and confidence to share their new knowledge with students and colleagues upon returning to the classroom.